Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Katharine Thomson

Letter No.: 
24th May 1950.

The White Gates,


Dear Mrs. Thomson,

I believe that I am supposed to know nothing about the proposed visit of you and your singers to Dorking, and for that reason I have kept right out of all the discussions in the early stages.1
I was, of course, much flattered and touched by the idea, but I was always rather apprehensive and now that I have heard more details (and I hear you even propose three performances) I feel I must speak out and beg of you to reconsider the matter.
I know Dorking audiences.  They do not even come in great numbers to our own Festival, except for the “Passion”.  The local Dramatic Society is seldom well patronised and the visits of the London Philharmonic Orchestra have been given to half empty halls.  So I cannot hope that your visit will be anything but a failure in the matter of audiences, and to speak quite frankly I think that the “snob” value of my name has been overworked lately.
The idea is prevalent in Dorking that you have been invited to give this performance.  Is this so?  In addition I understand that all the arrangements at this end have been handed over to Miss Cullen.  She is very keen and capable but is already overworked and in her enthusiasm is apt to undertake more than she can manage and it is essential that her energies should be kept for what is really her chief job - that is, the Festival.
I also hear that a local choir is to be recruited and trained by Miss Cullen to help in the choruses,  These will inevitably be drawn from our own local choral societies.  These singers have already as much to do as they can manage and “speaking as a fool”,2  though I know they would do anything to help me, I feel I cannot be a party to overworking a willing horse.
You know what affection I have for your singers and how much I admire their work and I want to save them from disappointment; also I cannot help feeling that to take a long journey and perform in a strange hall on a strange stage and to strange audiences with a strange orchestra would almost certainly prevent them from doing themselves justice.
So may I repeat that I advise you most strongly to abandon the project.  I say this with great sorrow because personally it would give me great pleasure to welcome you here and hear your performance, which as you know I have only heard at present in the rehearsal stages.
Yours sincerely,

R. Vaughan Williams

Mrs. Thomson,
84, Oakfield Road,
Selly Park,

1. It had been suggested by Tom Harrison that the Clarion Singers should give a performance of Sir John in Love at Dorking.
2. A phrase VW used to qualify apparently boastful statements, taken from 2 Corinthians ch 11 v 23.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add. MS 71536, ff. 32-33
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Cobbe 537
Original database number: